More complaints are expected to come out
Sexual harassment allegations have been hitting the entertainment and media industry hard recently. Harvey Weinstein has been fired from (and is now suing) his own company following a string of sexual harassment accusations from over 50 women. Netflix has cancelled political drama House of Cards amid allegations of sexual harassment against lead actor Kevin Spacey. While the worlds of sport, modelling and the music industry have also been hit by accusations of abuse, in what Oscar winner Emma Thompson has called ‘our system’s gender crisis.’
Now, the UK political sphere is being rocked by similar claims of sexual harassment; prompting a debate on the issue in parliament, and Prime Minister Theresa May to call on victims to report any incidents to police.
What are the accusations of sexual harassment at Westminster?
Bex Bailey, 25, a Labour activist, this week told the BBC that she was raped at a Labour party event six years ago. She stated that a senior Labour official discouraged her from reporting the attack, adding that it might harm her career. Bailey told the BBC she had decided to waive her anonymity to encourage changes in the way such cases are handled.
Additionally, Labour MP Cat Smith, told the BBC‘s Victoria Derbyshire programme that she had to ‘push away’ and ‘run’ when a senior Labour councillor with ‘a bit of a reputation,’ insisted on walking her home from a party event and then tried to kiss her.
The Guardian also reported that a spreadsheet with the names of 40 Conservative MPs containing allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct (nearly all of which are so far unverified), is currently being circulated around Westminster. The document describes some as having affairs, being ‘inappropriate’ with female and male staff, or in other cases as ‘handsy in taxis’.
The allegations come after Labour MP Jared O’Hara was suspended from the party following the discovery of sexist and homophobic comments on his social media account.
What’s next for victims of sexual harassment at Westminster?
Labour have announced a full independent inquiry into the allegations brought by Ms. Bailey, and Jeremy Corbyn said she had shown ‘incredible bravery’ in speaking out. Theresa May has promised a new, independent process to handle complaints about sexual harassment in Westminster, saying that any victims of sexual harassment in Parliament should go to the police.